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Crosby saga continues to leave questions Print
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Written by Steve Wozniak   
Monday, 06 February 2012 01:37

Like Great Lakes weather patterns, if you don’t like the latest diagnosis or prognosis for Sidney Crosby, wait five minutes – it’ll change.

Steve WozniakThe latest press release issued by the Pittsburgh Penguins last Tuesday on the all-too-long recovery odyssey of its second-best player was yet another prompt to throw up our hands in collective resignation and think, “Just tell me when he’s playing again.”

More than a year after then-Washington Capital David Steckel decided to sideswipe a parked Sidney Crosby, the 24-year-old captain continues to suffer not from a concussion, but from the far more ambiguous concussion-like symptoms.

Or at least we thought until Crosby visited Robert Bray, a spinal surgeon in Los Angeles. Bray issued a diagnosis that Crosby had suffered a slight fracture in the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Never mind that such fractures can often lead to paralysis and hinder long-term functioning. It was, to the gathered media, just more delicious but empty calories to feed their Sid cravings.

That news and diagnosis held up for a couple days until the Penguins issued a release stating that a follow-up visit to spinal trauma expert Alexander Vaccaro in Philadelphia revealed that no, Crosby had not fractured his vertebrae but did have a “soft-tissue injury” in his neck. That news will likely hold up until the next specialist disagrees.

If Crosby decided to see a thousand specialists, he would probably get a thousand diagnoses at this point. All of which would bring the hockey world no closer to an answer for “When’s he going to play again?”

Doctor-patient privilege deprives the hockey world of many detailed answers to Crosby’s literal headaches and their figurative ones. Soft-tissue injury? What kind? Soft-tissue injuries run the gamut from the stingers that often sideline football linemen to hyperextension and Shaken Baby syndrome.

In Crosby’s case, the best explanation may come from the literature on a debatedly legitimate condition called Barre-Lieou syndrome. Barre-Lieou syndrome is aSidney Crosby vertebral instability or pinching of the nerves in the sympathetic nervous system caused by strain or injury to the cervical ligaments, part of the soft tissue in the neck. The sympathetic nervous system controls most of the body’s critical functions, like breathing, heartbeat, equilibrium and pupil accomodation to light.

In the case of Barre-Lieou, the posterior cervical sympathetic chain, which is supposed to react to any injury within the system, fails to do just that and won’t shut down. As a result, the entire sympathetic nervous system becomes overly sensitive to outside stimulus. A rise or drop in ambient temperature by just a few degrees can send the whole system into a painful frenzy.

Barre-Lieou is often caused by whiplash-like trauma to the head that will strain or injure the soft tissue in the neck. Both the hit from Steckel and the one a few days later from Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman would qualify as such. The hit by Boston’s David Krejci that allegedly led to Crosby’s second trip to the injured reserve? It’s debatable.

Barre-Lieou often presents symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fatigue, vertigo, corneal sensitivity and numbness.

That’s a bit clinical but insightful. 

But it does not answer the question that has consumed the hockey world:

When’s he going to play again?

If Crosby is indeed suffering wth Barre-Lieou – and no report or release will likely neither confirm nor deny such a detailed diagnosis for a sport that doesn’t like to go beyond “upper-body” or “lower-body” with its descriptions – the outlook is probably positive. Injuries to the nervous system in the cervical vertebrae are very treatable. Injuries to the brain? Not so much.

Treatment of such injuries can often alleviate all systems of Barre-Lieou within weeks, not months. Stingers and strains usually disappear within days. Initial speculation that Crosby would return in late March, in time for the playoffs, seems fair.

At this point, the hockey world isn’t as concerned with medical reports as it is with seeing No. 87 zip around the ice again. Then all of our headaches would vanish as well. 

Photos by Getty Images

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Last Updated on Monday, 06 February 2012 09:57